In my humble opinion, mystery is one of YA’s best-done genres, and this is only a sliver of its best. (For instance, you might also check out The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson! Or The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas! Or, for a historical, The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur!)
If you love a good whodunit, behold eight great places to start in mystery books for teens.
Boulley’s stellar debut novel has gotten allll the buzz for a reason–it’s that good, delving deeply into the world of Ojibwe girl Daunis and the complex reality of maintaining culture and tradition in a world that will barely let them exist.
When she falls for a new boy on her brother’s hockey team, the last thing Daunis expects is to get pulled into a murder mystery and subsequent drug case, but in the interest of protecting her family and community, she’ll have to put herself on the line to figure out who’s trying to destroy them. This one’s already available in paperback, but for even more by Boulley, check out her new mystery release, Warrior Girl Unearthed.
Bianca Torre is Afraid of Everything
If you like your mysteries quirky, funny, and murder-y, Winans’ debut about a gender-questioning lesbian birder named Bianca whose solitary existence behind her telescope leads her to witness one of her neighbors being stabbed should jump to the top of your list. (If you’re already thinking Only Murders in the Building, you are correct, and the vibes are excellent.)
With the help of a fellow anime-loving best friend and the girl Bianca’s crushing on from their bird-watching group, Bianca investigates the rapidly thickening plot, discovering that no one can be trusted.
Giles’s talents lie all over the map, from dystopian YA (seriously, check out The Getaway if you haven’t yet) to slice-of-life middle grade novels. But one of my absolute favorites of his works is this propulsive and compelling mystery set in the world of DJ-ing and centered on the death of a rising star.
Both Kya and Fuse have reasons to want to find who killed Paris, aka DJ ParSec, so even though Paris’s former best friend and top groupie have never gotten along, they bury the hatchet to work together, only to find that the person they each thought they knew best had secrets neither of them could’ve imagined.
A Study in Charlotte
Cavallaro takes on the notorious Holmes and Watson in the first book of this fantastic quartet, bringing together the descendants of the well-known detectives at a Connecticut boarding school. But while Jamie Watson has always been intrigued by Charlotte Holmes, she doesn’t return his interest; she’s too busy indulging her addiction in private.
Then a mysterious student death hits too close to them both, and they’ll have no choice but to work together to maintain their innocence. (For another solid set of books in the reimagined world of Holmes that also has a highly shippable romance, check out the Every series by Ellie Marney. This one’s also a great pick for fans of Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious series.)
Ace of Spades
About as compulsively page-turning as a thriller can possibly be, Ace of Spades ticks all my boxes, combining dark academia vibes with queer rep, plenty of social consciousness, and horrifying twists.
It alternates between the perspectives of two Black teens at fancy Niveus Private Academy who both have something to hide, and everything to lose if their secrets get out. So when a blackmailer targets them both, the unlikely pair teams up, only to find that things go so much deeper than they ever could’ve imagined.
The Inheritance Games
Barnes has crafted a number of YA’s best thrillers and mysteries, so those of us still mourning that there’s no third book in the Fixer series are delighted to finally see her get her bestselling due in her newest, wildly fun and puzzle-filled series. Avery Grambs’s life is turned upside-down when she finds herself standing to inherit billions from a man she’s never even met.
The only catch is that she has to move into his mansion–with his compelling grandsons–and enter their world of nonstop puzzles. Of course, no one’s too happy about the money going to a stranger, which means it’ll take a whole lot of skills for Avery to survive the experience, and even more to figure out what she’s doing there in the first place.
Monday's Not Coming
If you enjoy emotional devastation, Jackson’s always a good bet, and this release may be a little older, but you never forget that book that made you sob on public transportation. It’s worth it, though, to watch Jackson dig deep into not just the disappearance of a girl and the life of the best friend who won’t give up on trying to find her, even when everyone else has, but into the vastly different treatment and coverage (or lack thereof) of specifically disappearing Black girls.
Gideon Green in Black and White
For my money, Katie Henry consistently creates some of the most interesting characters in YA, and her latest–and first—mystery is a great example of her most notable skill: crafting an unfolding narrative depicting a character processing a past trauma with a healthy dose of wit, heart, and the unexpected.
Our hero in her newest is Gideon Green, an amateur detective with a passion for getting to the truth, which makes him a perfect pairing with journalist Tess when his former best friend, Lily, recruits him for the school paper as his cover for solving a case. Now Gideon’s trying to patch up his old life while proving his mettle in his new one, but if he can’t solve this one, he may not live to see the next.
(Note: If noir in particular is your preferred mystery vibe, this is the one to start with.)
Featured photo: Houcine Ncib / Unsplash